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Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Legislative Hearing on HR 1200, HR 1199, and HR 1126

Tue, 03/26/2019 - 10:30
On Tuesday, March 26, 2019, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs will hold a legislative hearing on HR 1200, HR 1199, HR 1126, a draft bill “To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to seek to enter into an agreement with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct a study on radiation exposure relating to the cleanup of Enewetok Atoll,” a draft bill “To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide payment of Medal of Honor special pension under such title to the surviving spouse or next of kin of a deceased Medal of Honor recipient, and for other purposes,” and a draft bill “To permit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a grant program to conduct cemetery research and produce educational materials for the Veterans Legacy Program.” The subcommittee will meet at 10:30 a.m. in room 1300 of the Longworth House Office Building.

Chairman Takano Demands Answers Given Concerns VA’s IT Solutions Could Disrupt Healthcare for 75,000 Veterans Each Day

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 18:05
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) issued the following statement regarding the serious concerns raised about VA’s IT solutions in the latest Pro Publica story: “The recent U.S. Digital Service (USDS) report on implementation of technology systems to support the Community Care components of the MISSION Act is incredibly alarming. By suggesting that VA’s planned IT solutions are inadequate, and that VA has not given itself enough time to develop a workable system, this report raises real concerns that implementation may be delayed and could even disrupt healthcare for 75,000 veterans every day. “USDS raises credible concerns that Community Care should have a veteran-centric approach, but despite these critiques, VA appears to be ignoring the problem or at least is unwilling to revisit its approach. Nowhere is this clearer than VA’s intention to formally request a funding transfer to implement the very IT solutions USDS raises concerns about. “VA’s history of failed IT systems shows that it cannot move forward with this IT implementation without addressing these root problems. The Committee will hold a hearing to demand answers from VA about the status of system development and will scrutinize the funding transfer request in light of these troubling findings.” ###

Citing New Evidence Chairman Takano Broadens Mar-a-Lago Investigation

Thu, 03/14/2019 - 00:00
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) sent the following letter notifying the Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs that the Committee is expanding the scope of its investigation into potential undue influence on VA beyond the Mar-a-Lago “three”: Citing a recent Pro Publica report Chairman Takano stated, “Until now, this investigation was limited in scope on the influence of Mr. Ike Perlmutter, Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, and Mr. Marc Sherman over the Department. However, this most recent letter containing President Trump’s handwritten note directing a former VA Secretary to consider a private individual’s request necessitates an investigation into the influence of other private individuals and entities that sought to influence VA through connections with the President’s Mar-a-Lago Club.” The letter continued, “Therefore, in addition to the items contained in the document request letter of February 8, 2019, I request any documents and communications in the possession, control, or custody of the Department of Veterans Affairs originating from President Trump’s National Golf Club Mar-a-Lago.” As of the writing of this letter, the Committee has not received all the documents requested by the extended March 8th deadline. Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.   March 14, 2019   The Honorable Robert Wilkie Secretary Department of Veterans Affairs 810 Vermont Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20420   Dear Mr. Secretary:   I am writing to request additional information about alleged improper influence of individuals associated with President Trump’s National Golf Club Mar-a-Lago over policy, personnel, and program decisions of the Department of Veterans Affairs. A recent report from ProPublica on influence of Mar-a-Lago Club associates included a letter from Dr. Albert Hazzouri addressed to President Trump on what appears to be Mar-a-Lago Club stationary. [1] Dr. Hazzouri is a cosmetic dentist with no known government experience or military service. In the letter, Dr. Hazzouri advocates for “creat[ing] an oversight committee” with the American Dental Association that would oversee the spending of federal dollars on dental care for “the vets, Native American Indians and underprivileged children." [2]  This letter bears the stamp: “the President has seen,” and in marker a handwritten note reads: “Send to David S at the V.A.” which contains what appears to be President Trump’s initial. [3] This letter provides evidence that additional private interests associated with Mar-a-Lago may have asserted influence, or attempted to assert influence over the Department. Until now, this investigation was limited in scope on the influence of Mr. Ike Perlmutter, Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, and Mr. Marc Sherman over the Department. However, this most recent letter containing President Trump’s handwritten note directing a former VA Secretary to consider a private individual’s request necessitates an investigation into the influence of other private individuals and entities that sought to influence VA through connections with the President’s Mar-a-Lago Club. Therefore, in addition to the items contained in the document request letter of February 8, 2019, I request any documents and communications in the possession, control, or custody of the Department of Veterans Affairs originating from President Trump’s National Golf Club Mar-a-Lago. This includes any documents or communications on stationary bearing the name, “The Mar-a-Lago Club.” This request also includes any documents or communications sent or received from members or associates of the Mar-a-Lago Club in the possession of the Department.  Please produce these documents by March 29, 2019. In the submission, provide the contact information for the individual(s) responsible for assembling the submission. This/These individual(s) shall certify and attest to the accuracy of the submission and whether the Department has complied with the request. Should you have any questions about this request, please contact Grace Rodden, Committee General Counsel, at (202) 225-9756 or at grace.rodden@mail.house.gov. Thank you for your prompt attention to this request.   Sincerely,       Mark Takano Chairman   ###  

Chairman Takano Gives Opening Remarks before the Legislative Presentation of Multiple Veterans Service Organizations

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 11:42
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) delivered opening remarks before the Legislative Presentation of Multiple Veterans Service Organization at the Joint House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing. Organizations testifying included: NASDVA, FRA, GSW, VBA, JWV, MOPH, and MOAA. Below is a link to the video of the Chairman’s opening statement and his remarks as prepared:   [[{"fid":"47","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"style":"height: 260px; width: 500px;","class":"media-element file-full","data-delta":"1"}}]] Watch opening remarks here   Thank you, Chairman Isakson.  It is always an honor to join you, Ranking Members Tester and Roe, and all members of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs to hear directly from the organizations that represent millions of veterans and their families who are impacted by our decisions.  Like the rest of the members siting at the dais, I take this responsibility very seriously. First, I want to welcome our partners from the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, the Fleet Reserve Association, Gold Star Wives of America, Blinded Veterans Association, Jewish War Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart and Military Officers Association of America. I’d also like to specifically recognize members from my home state of California.  Will the members from California please raise your hand or stand to be recognized.  Welcome! I am thankful for the opportunity to hear from our VSO partners – many of whom are veterans themselves.  Each of you represent a unique group of veterans and surviving spouses, and because of that each of you possesses a unique set of concerns.  The Joint Hearings provide us a unique opportunity to hear the focused messages from so many of our VSO partners who do the work every day to help our nation’s heroes. Congress simply could not deliver on our promises without the dedication and first-hand understanding of the issues that affect our service members, veterans and their families.  Thank you for all you do.  With your help, we have identified many problems and fixes to those problems, but the work is far from over.  Your continued input as we move through the 116th Congress is not only needed, it is TRULY appreciated. I ask that you continue to hold the Administration and Congress accountable and ensure both fulfill our nation’s promise to care for our veterans.  If we can afford to send our people to war to protect our country, then this country can and must afford to take care of our wounded when they return. Reading through your testimony, your concerns are my concerns, and the concerns of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  The message from you and your VSO cohorts is clear – Congress must keep a vigilant eye on the VA and pass legislation to care for our veterans.  Mental health, eliminating veteran suicide, ensuring equal access to quality medical care for all veterans – regardless of gender or disability, and to ensure that access to crucial VA services be available to veterans of all eras should be our priorities. Outreach and care for women and minority veterans must also be addressed in this Congress.  I am pleased that attention for these veterans groups continues to rise.  I am glad that the testimony of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs’ highlights aspects of access hurtles our Native American veterans face.  I want to make it clear to you today, that I directed my staff in January of this year to better understand the hurtles that Native American veterans face in attaining earned VA disability benefits, and I plan to identify and implement solutions that will improve the lives of our Native veterans and all under represented veterans in my time as Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. While I just touched on a few issue areas important to you and your membership, know that I am committed to helping advance your priorities in the coming year. I look forward to hearing your testimony today and thank you again for your tireless advocacy on behalf of the veteran community.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman and I yield back the balance of my time. ###

Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the "Legislative Presentation of Multiple Veterans Service Organizations (NASDVA, FRA, GSW, BVA,JWV, MORH, MOAA)"

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 10:00
On Tuesday March 12, 2019, the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a joint hearing to receive the “Legislative Presentation of Multiple Veterans Service Organizations (NASDVA, FRA, GSW, BVA, JWV, MOPH, MOAA”.  The Committees will meet at 10:00 a.m. on the ground floor, room 50, (G-50) of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  Watch the meeting here Meeting documents can be found here

Chairman Takano Statement on Trump’s 2020 Budget Proposal

Mon, 03/11/2019 - 00:00
WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) issued the following statement on President Trump’s proposed 2020 budget: “With significant cuts to the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, and so many more, the President’s proposed budget is cause for concern. Additionally, VA is charged with providing the best healthcare possible for our veterans—that means ensuring we’re investing in the research and infrastructure needs for our increasingly diverse veterans population. But with significant reductions in medical research and infrastructure funding—both historically underfunded areas— the proposed budget will hurt our veterans. As we learn more about the implications of this budget, one thing is clear: we need to do more to ensure our veterans get the care they earned and deserve and we must invest in domestic programs that support veterans and their families. This proposed budget puts that care and support at risk.” ###

Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the "Legislative Presentation of Multiple Veterans Service Organizations (AMVETS, PVA, VVA, IAVA, SVA, AXPOW, WWP)"

Thu, 03/07/2019 - 14:00
On Thursday March 7, 2019, the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a joint hearing to receive the “Legislative Presentation of Multiple Veterans Service Organizations (AMVETS, PVA, VVA, IAVA,SVA, AXPOW, WWP)”.  The Committees will meet at 2:00 p.m. on the ground floor, room 50, (G-50) of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  Watch the meeting here Meeting documents can be found here

Takano, Roe Issue Bipartisan Statement on Veteran Suicide Prevention

Thu, 03/07/2019 - 13:11
WASHINGTON, DC – Reps. Mark Takano (D-Cali.) and Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, respectively, issued a joint bipartisan statement following yesterday’s roundtable on veteran suicide prevention: “Our Committee believes in identifying and utilizing every tool at our disposal to reduce the number of veteran suicides each year. That’s why we came together with our partners and stakeholders to continue this vital conversation in earnest. We will continue to lead on this issue and look forward to more bipartisan dialogue and action so we can better support our veterans.”   ###

Chairman Takano Gives Opening Remarks before the Legislative Presentation of Multiple Veterans Service Organizations

Thu, 03/07/2019 - 00:00
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) delivered opening remarks before the Legislative Presentation of Multiple Veterans Service Organization at the Joint House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing.  Organizations testifying included: AMVETS, PVA, VVA, IAVA, SVA, AXPOW, and WWP. Below is a link to the video of the Chairman’s opening statement and his remarks as prepared:   [[{"fid":"46","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"style":"height: 264px; width: 500px;","class":"media-element file-full","data-delta":"1"}}]] Watch opening remarks here   Good afternoon and welcome everyone to the House and Senate Joint Hearing to receive the legislative presentation of American Ex-Prisoners of War, American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Wounded Warrior Project. I am honored to be here with Chairman Isakson and with Senator Tester and Ranking Member Roe, and all members of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs. I would like to thank our witnesses for being here today and to thank them for the work they do on behalf of veterans in this country.  This group represents many generations of veterans and interests, but they – and we – are united in the common goal of improving outcomes, creating opportunities, and ensuring that veterans receive the care and benefits they have earned.   I am grateful for the opportunity to hear from this group of engaged organizations.  I also want to thank veterans joining us here today and those that are watching from home.  I’d also like to specifically recognize organization members from my home state of California.  Will the members from California please stand or raise your hand to be recognized.  Welcome! Last week the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee had the opportunity to hear from Secretary Wilkie about the current state of VA and the vision for the future of VA.  The Committee has called this vision “VA 2030.”  VA2030 means we are engaged in an effort to establish the best possible VA, and to determine the tools and resources its needs to serve ALL veterans, no matter the generation or the conflict in which they served.  This also means strengthening and improving VA for generations of veterans to come. Today I look forward to hearing from this diverse group of Veterans Service Organizations about the challenges you foresee and the priorities you have for VA now and in the future.  I know we share many of these priorities.  I will speak to a few of the Committee’s key priorities now, but I look forward to an engaging discussion today and throughout the 116th Congress about your concerns. Addressing veteran suicide is a critical priority for the Committee.  Last week Secretary Wilkie pledged to spend every last dollar available to tackle this issue.  This week the President issued a new Executive Order creating a task force to address veteran suicide.  I certainly welcome an aggressive and sustained approach, but I am concerned about half-measures.  If we keep starting new programs and not fully implementing them, we will never see real and lasting results.  I think it is important to work with the veteran community and assess what is working now and expand on it.  We must use innovative ways to conduct outreach and engage with individuals so that no veteran believes that she or he is alone – we are ready and willing to help. Another top priority is providing healthcare and disability benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans exposed to Agent Orange.  It is long past time for Congress to pass H.R. 299.  Last week, at the Committee’s hearing I asked Secretary Wilkie to tell me whether the Administration will appeal the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s decision to extend these benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans.  I also asked him to inform me if Blue Water Navy veterans eligible for disability benefits after the court’s decision will be able to receive healthcare at VA medical facilities.  I am waiting for a response from the Secretary, but veterans should not be made to wait.  Congress must act now. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is committed to addressing the specific challenges faced by our women veterans and we have formed a task force dedicated to developing and promoting policies that support women veterans and their healthcare needs, as well as ensuring their successful transition out of service.  We want to ensure that veterans’ status is a supportive place for our women servicemembers and that they have the full ability to access their benefits and opportunities. Economic opportunity – whether that is education, career, owning a small business, or homeownership – is something this Committee wants to promote and strengthen.  This can be done in small and big ways.  We need to close the 90-10 loophole.  We need to ensure that VA has efficient and functional systems in place to process benefits and ensure that veterans don’t experience delays in receiving them.  VA needs to improve and innovate its technology in many areas, but we will be paying particular attention to GI Bill implementation. While I touched on just a few of the issue areas that are important to you and your membership, I am committed to helping advance your priorities in the coming year. I look forward to hearing your testimony today and thank you again for your tireless advocacy for the veteran community.  ###

Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the "Legislative Presentation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States"

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 10:00
On Wednesday, March 6, 2019, the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a joint hearing to receive the “Legislative Presentation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States”. The Committees will meet at 10:00 a.m. on the ground floor, room 50, (G-50) of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Watch the meeting here Meeting documents can be found here

Chairman Takano Gives Opening Remarks before the Legislative Presentation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 00:00
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) gave opening remarks before the Legislative Presentation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States at the Joint House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing.  Below is a link to the video of the Chairman’s opening statement and his remarks as prepared:   [[{"fid":"44","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"style":"height: 254px; width: 500px;","class":"media-element file-full","data-delta":"1"}}]]   Watch opening remarks here   Good Morning, Commander Lawrence. I am honored to be here with Chairman Isakson and with Senator Tester and Ranking Member Roe, and all members of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs. First I would like to thank Commander Lawrence for being here today and welcome every member of the VFW present in the room and those who couldn’t join us in person. Commander, I want to begin by recognizing the tireless advocates who work every day on behalf of the VFW.  We rely on the local VFW chapters in our districts and states back home, and here in Washington DC to be the voice for the millions of veterans you represent throughout the country.   I’d also like to specifically recognize members from my home state of California.  Will the members from California please stand or raise your hand to be recognized.  Welcome! Commander, I would like to thank the VFW for your work on the Independent Budget, with the DAV and PVA.  It is clear from your latest version that while VA is receiving robust funding, there are certainly gaps to close and much work left to be done before we achieve our shared goals.  I ask that the VFW continue to hold the Administration and Congress accountable and ensure both fulfill our nation’s promise to veterans.  We look to you to guide our work. With your help, we have seen a lot of successes over the years, and we will need your continued input as we move through the 116th Congress.  Reading through your testimony, your concerns are my concerns, and the concerns of this Committee. I appreciate that your first priority is my first priority, providing healthcare and disability benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans exposed to Agent Orange.  It is long past time for Congress to pass H.R. 299, and I agree: “Congress cannot fail these veterans again.” Last week, during a hearing in which Secretary Wilkie testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on the state of VA, I asked Secretary Wilkie to update me on whether the Administration will appeal the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s decision to extend these benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans.  I also asked him to tell me if Blue Water Navy veterans eligible for disability benefits after the court’s decision will be able to receive healthcare at VA medical facilities.  Although we are waiting for a response from the Secretary, veterans should not be made to wait.  Congress must act. During that hearing, I also asked Secretary Wilkie to discuss what needs to be done to achieve the Committee’s vision for VA 2030. The Committee’s VA 2030 plan is simple:  it’s a future look at what the Committee envisions to be the ideal VA:  a VA ready to provide services and benefits to veterans no matter the generation or conflict in which they served.  That starts with getting implementation of the Mission Act right so veterans can access care at VA hospitals and clinics and with community providers. We share your similar concerns regarding access standards, a focus on health outcomes, and hiring and retaining providers and employees to fill the 48,985 vacancies at VA.  The VFW’s voice must be heard during Mission Act implementation, and there must be an open, collaborative process.  Commander, I ask that today you provide us your candid views on implementation thus far. I also ask you to continue to highlight and advocate for policies to address disparities in health outcomes for minority and LGBT veterans for Congress, the Administration, and the nation.  Please continue your passionate advocacy for utilization of benefits by veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury and military sexual trauma, VA’s progress on medical cannabis research, and healthcare services for former servicemembers with other than honorable discharges.  I also share your disappointment that: “not a single piece of legislation became law in the 115th Congress to address the needs of women veterans.”  This must change in the 116th Congress. The first veterans bill to pass the House of Representatives this Congress, was the “Veterans Access to Child Care Act.”  It enables veterans with young children to see their VA provider without having to choose between making their appointments and finding and affording child care. I would like to thank Ms. Brownley for her tireless work on that bill, and am excited to have her Chair the Health subcommittee and lead our Task Force on Women Veterans.  With the help of our colleagues in the Senate, I expect the 116th Congress will far exceed the 115th Congress in addressing the needs of women servicemembers and veterans.  Women veterans need to know that today’s VA is here to serve them, and I urge my Senate colleagues to pass the Veterans Access to Child Care Act without delay. VA must also take immediate action to address veteran suicide—and the alarming trend of veterans committing suicide in VA medical facility parking lots.  As the number one clinical priority of the VA, I am concerned that resources are not being spent to tell veterans and their families about the services VA provides.  I am also not sure if last year’s Presidential Executive Order had the impact we all were hoping for.  I remain concerned that we, as a nation, are not addressing veterans in crisis who served in Vietnam, those not utilizing VA healthcare, and those who served in the National Guard and Reserve Components who never mobilized for deployment. As I close, I would ask you to continue to work with and advise all of us here on the need for a fourth administration at VA.  I hear your concerns about vocational rehabilitation, education services, and the transition assistance program not getting the attention and advocacy they deserve under the Veterans Benefits Administration.  I support the effort to provide a seat at the table within VA for these programs.  They are vital to the success of our veterans once they leave the service. However, having watched VA’s implementation of the Forever GI Bill, the Mission Act, and the Electronic Health Record, I have concerns about VA’s ability to implement a new administration without a detailed and well-developed plan.  I would like to work with you to further develop legislation to have VA create this plan, and inform Congress of the budgetary and personnel requirements necessary to execute the plan successfully, before the new administration is authorized. Everyone in here agrees, one homeless veteran, one unemployed or underemployed veteran, one financially unstable veteran, is one veteran too many.  Let’s figure out how to structure VA to empower employees to make the system work for these veterans, and structure VA to hold leadership accountable for improving veteran outcomes. While I just touched on a few of the issue areas important to you and your membership, know that I am committed to helping advance your priorities in the coming year.  I began by saying, your priorities are this Committee’s priorities, and I mean that. I look forward to hearing your testimony today and thank you again for your tireless advocacy on behalf of the veteran community.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman and I yield back the balance of my time.   ###

Chairman Takano Statement on the Trump Administration’s Executive Order to Prevent Veteran Suicide

Tue, 03/05/2019 - 16:42
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) issued the following statement in response to the Administration’s new Executive Order on the "National Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End Veteran Suicide." Statement from the Chairman below: “While the Committee fully supports the intent of this executive order we have questions about how the White House plans to implement this initiative at the same time that previous efforts to address veterans suicide remain outstanding. Sadly, too many barriers to access remain for at-risk veterans even though VA is a leader in research and is unrivaled in providing mental health services for veterans. We must press VA to utilize effective treatment strategies driven by evidence based outcomes and strengthen oversight over community partnerships and grants even as the department operates under limited budgetary constraints. Our efforts to locate, make contact with, and provide treatment for veterans, many of whom are outside the VA system, begins before they transition off of active duty and continues as they start their lives as civilians.”  ###

Chairman Takano Launches Investigation into Foreign Internet Bots Intent on Deceiving Servicemembers, their Families, and the American Public

Tue, 03/05/2019 - 16:15
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) launched an investigation into the anonymous internet actors impersonating Veterans Service Organizations in an effort to scam servicemembers, their families, and the American public. Statement from the Chairman below: “Foreign actors that use shadowy practices to disseminate false information, target servicemembers and their families, impersonate VSOs, and deceive the American people shouldn’t be allowed to operate outside the law. Our veterans served in uniform to guard against threats to our democracy just like those posed by these internet bots and trolls intent on sowing division and spreading misinformation. Congress has a responsibility to stamp out these anonymous individuals and protect our country from threats foreign and domestic.” ###

Chairman Takano Delivers Opening Remarks At First Committee Hearing Examining “VA 2030” and Future of VA

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 10:36
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) delivered opening remarks before the first Full Committee Hearing entitled “VA2030: A Vision for the Future of the VA”.  Below is a link to the video of the Chairman’s opening statement and his remarks as prepared: [[{"fid":"43","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"2":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"style":"height: 348px; width: 500px;","class":"media-element file-full","data-delta":"2"}}]]   Watch opening remarks here   Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us today.  I truly appreciate your commitment to your job and to our veterans while you are recovering from foot surgery.  Out of respect and sympathy for you, I will move this hearing along as quickly as possible so you can get back to following your doctor’s orders: to rest and elevate your foot. I will strictly adhere to the five minute rule for each member.  Please be cognizant of how much time you have and if you think you might go over, submit your additional questions for the record.  Thank you. What I hope to get out of this hearing is to lay the groundwork for a long-term vision for the future of VA.  We all know what we need to do over the next year or two to keep VA functioning, but our aspirational goal should be to envision the perfect VA system and strive toward that. By now, I’m sure most of you have heard me use the phrase “VA 2030.”  This is the term I’ll use when describing my vision of VA. My vision is twofold:  VA must be a system that is easy to navigate – easy to enter with logical responses as veterans’ needs change or new needs arise. The second part of my vision is that VA catches up to the changing and new demographics of veterans, and be nimble enough to adapt and respond as those demographics change. I often use VA’s long-term care programs as an example of VA 2030.  Today, there are countless resources to receive assistive care, which is great for veterans.  Unfortunately, there are countless ways in which veterans can access those services.  This makes it confusing for veterans and their loved ones to find the right program to meet their needs.  In a perfect world, veterans seeking assistance - whether it’s with cleaning their house or mowing their lawn or those with greater needs for full time care in a long-term facility – should have a single point of entry that evaluates their needs and eligibility for services so veterans and their families can make decisions that are right for them.  As veterans age and their needs change, the care and services provided should adapt to veterans’ needs –requiring little effort from the veterans and their families. Using this model, we should be able to remove redundant programs and find gaps in service while making it easier to navigate VA’s services. In the same vein, we must evaluate VA’s programs and services to better serve women veterans, the LGBTQ community, and minority veterans. With this vision in mind, Ms. Brownley developed the idea and framework for the Women Veterans’ Taskforce.  This taskforce will examine the current services that are specific to women veterans to see if there is room for improvement.  It will also look at programs and services that are meant to serve all veterans, but might need adjustments to better serve women, like prosthetics and mental health care treatments. This forward-looking process will take trust and a commitment from all involved to work, but we have proven that we have the ability to do it. VA, Congress and the VSOs all worked together to improve the appeals process.  Four years ago the appeals backlog was enormous and growing. Veterans waited months and years for an answer. Today, thanks to bipartisan cooperation and full involvement with stakeholders, there is a far more efficient process where veterans have the ability to choose which appeal lane works best for them. This model is working to produce more timely decisions that veterans and VSOs are reporting as a large step in the right direction.  For the first time in many years, we have a realistic grasp on eliminating the appeals backlog. Mr. Secretary, we have done it before, we can do it again.  I look forward to hearing from you on the areas in which we can quickly make meaningful changes, and also areas that might take time, like appeals modernization.  I also look forward to working with Ranking Member Roe and the rest of my colleagues on the Committee to make sure we meet the audacious goal of VA 2030.  With that, I yield 5 minutes to my friend Dr. Roe.     ###

Chairman Takano Delivers Opening Remarks before the Legislative Presentation of the American Legion

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 15:03
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) delivered opening remarks before the Legislative Presentation of the American Legion at the Joint House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing.  Below is a link to the video of the Chairman’s opening statement and his remarks as prepared:   [[{"fid":"41","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"2":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"style":"height: 268px; width: 500px;","class":"media-element file-full","data-delta":"2"}}]] Watch opening remarks here   Good Morning, Commander Reistad and welcome everyone to the House and Senate joint hearing to receive the legislative presentation of The American Legion. I am honored to be here with Chairman Isakson and with Senator Tester and Ranking Member Roe, and all members of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs. First I would like to thank Commander Reistad for being here today and welcome every Legionnaire here today and those who couldn’t join us in person but are watching from home. Commander, I want begin by recognizing the tireless advocates who work every day on behalf of the American Legion.  We rely on the American Legion in our districts and states back home, and here in Washington D.C. to be the voice for the millions of veterans you represent throughout the country.   I’d also like to specifically recognize members from my home state of California.  Will the members from California please stand or raise your hand to be recognized.  Welcome! For 100 years, members of your organization have been on the front lines as a strong voice on Capitol Hill, ensuring Congress fulfills its promise to veterans.  We look to you to guide our work, and to hold us accountable to the veterans and their families.  You make sure that the work we undertake is done in the best interest of veterans.  With your help, we have seen a lot of successes over the years, and we will need your continued input as we move through the 116th Congress.  Reading through your testimony, your concerns are my concerns. This afternoon, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will have Secretary Wilkie testifying on the state of the VA, and what needs to be done to achieve our vision for VA 2030. Our VA 2030 plan is simple:  it’s a future look at what we envision as the ideal VA—a System Worth Saving for ALL veterans, no matter the generation or conflict in which they served.  That starts with getting implementation of the Mission Act right so veterans can access to care at VA hospitals and clinics and with community providers. I hold your similar concerns regarding hiring and retention.  We must continue to find constructive ways to bring the best and brightest to VA and once they are there, keep them. Keeping pace with the fastest growing population of veterans is critical.  Women veterans need to know that VA is for them.  We agree with your assessment, that no veteran should have to choose between caring for a child and receiving healthcare.  We are proud to report that the House passed the “Veterans Access to Child Care Act a few weeks ago so that veterans who are parents to young children can see their VA provider without having to worry about finding and affording child care. And we will continue to work with you to advance benefits to all Viet Nam veterans serving on land and sea—especially those exposed to Agent Orange. We will double our efforts to end homelessness and strive to find and care for every veteran who may be contemplating suicide. While I just touched on a few of the issue areas that are important to you and your membership, know that I am committed to helping advance your priorities in the coming year. I look forward to hearing your testimony today and thank you again for your tireless advocacy of the veteran community.  ###

VA 2030: A Vision for the Future of VA

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 14:00
On Wednesday, February 27, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives, Full Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold our rescheduled hearing entitled “VA 2030: A Vision for the Future of VA”.  The Committee will meet at 2:00 p.m. in room 1334 of the Longworth House Office Building.  Watch the meeting here Meeting documents can be found here

Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the "Legislative Presentation of The American Legion"

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 10:00
On Wednesday, February 27, 2019, the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a joint hearing to receive the “Legislative Presentation of The American Legion”.  The Committees will meet at 10:00 a.m. on the ground floor, room 50, (G-50) of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  Watch the meeting here Meeting documents can be found here

Chairman Takano: VA’s Failure to Meet Deadline, Provide Documents in Mar-A-Lago Investigation Demonstrates “Lack of Good Faith Effort”

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 17:12
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) released the following letter in response to the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ failure to meet the February 22, 2019 deadline and provide documents regarding the Committee’s investigation into the potential undue influence of the Mar-a-Lago “three” on VA: Chairman Takano opened his letter stating, “I have yet to receive a single document responsive to my request.” He continued, “Providing a letter after 5pm on Friday, February 22, requesting a meeting to discuss document production without producing a single document demonstrates a lack of a good faith effort to comply with my request by the Department.” “When I spoke with you on February 8, you pledged to fully comply with my request by the February 22, 2019 deadline. I also informed you during that conversation to contact my staff and me if you anticipated needing more time to respond, so we could develop a reasonable document production schedule,” the letter stated. Chairman Takano has accepted an offer to meet with VA Secretary Wilkie to discuss a timeline for providing the requested documents. Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.   February 25, 2019   The Honorable Robert Wilkie Secretary Department of Veterans Affairs 810 Vermont Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20420   Dear Mr. Secretary: Thank you for your February 22, 2019 response to my request for documents, communications, and information regarding the influence Mr. Ike Perlmutter, Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, and Mr. Marc Sherman asserted over the Department of Veterans Affairs. When I spoke with you on February 8, you pledged to fully comply with my request by the February 22, 2019 deadline. I also informed you during that conversation to contact my staff and me if you anticipated needing more time to respond, so we could develop a reasonable document production schedule. I have yet to receive a single document responsive to my request. Prior to the February 22, 2019 deadline, your Department had not made any attempt to notify my staff or me that the Department could not comply with the deadline. Providing a letter after 5pm on Friday, February 22, requesting a meeting to discuss document production without producing a single document demonstrates a lack of a good faith effort to comply with my request by the Department. I accept your offer of a meeting, but I expect that documents responsive to my request are provided to the Committee at such meeting. The Department has stonewalled Congress long enough regarding this matter and others.   Thank you in advance for providing the requested documents, communications, and information to the Committee no later than March 8, 2019.    Sincerely,   Mark Takano Chairman   ###

Chairman Takano Gives Opening Remarks before the Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 17:07
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) gave opening remarks before the Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans at the Joint House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing.  Below is a link to the video of the Chairman’s opening statement and his remarks as prepared: [[{"fid":"37","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"class":"media-element file-full","data-delta":"1"}}]] Watch opening remarks here Good Afternoon Chairman Isakson and thank you.  Welcome, Commander Nixon.  And welcome to every DAV member in the room and to those who couldn’t join us in person but are watching from home. I want to thank each of you—that’s more than 1 million DAV members—for your service to our country, and your continued service to our veterans. And before I get started, are there any Californians in the room?  WELCOME! Commander, I want to let you know that your National staff is the best in the business.  Their thorough knowledge of the issues facing veterans and their tireless commitment to improve the lives of veterans and their families guide our policy making. The success of our collective effort to care for veterans depends on building and maintaining trust and communication between Members of Congress and with organizations like DAV.  I know that you join me in fostering continued bipartisanship and partnership in the care of our Veterans. As you have pointed out in your testimony, and I agree, we are once again approaching a critical point in time - a crossroads that will determine how well our nation fulfills its promise to our veterans.  Over the past couple of years, several landmark laws have been passed by Congress.  Now, the question is how these laws will be implemented.   We must ensure that the progress we have made isn’t lost.   The foundation of trust and communication that produced recent achievements, like the MISSION Act and Appeals Modernization, must be continued in the coming months to ensure what VA implements is in the spirit of what your organization expects.    Your priorities are my priorities.  We have solemn responsibilities, to care for all Blue Water Veterans, expand the Caregiver Program, and ensure there is equitable healthcare for our minority and women veterans.  These are just a handful of small things we can do to uphold our end of the bargain—that those who fight for our country receive healthcare and disability benefits— the most fundamental things veterans deserve after answering our nation’s call to serve.   I look forward to your testimony today, and again, thank you and the members of the DAV for the sacrifice all of you made for this country and the services you continue to provide to the veterans community.  Words cannot express my gratitude for your work. Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time. ###  

Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 14:00
On Tuesday, February 26, 2019, the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a joint hearing to receive the “Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans”.  The Committees will meet at 2:00 p.m. on the ground floor, room 50, (G-50) of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Watch the meeting here Meeting documents can be found here

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